DRA program offers restaurant workers access to doctors
WILMINGTON — Health insurance has historically been difficult to provide to small, independent restaurants. But in Delaware, there’s one option that can fill some of the gaps, all from a smartphone or laptop.
The Delaware Restaurant Association (DRA) has offered membership rates with Teladoc, a Dallas-based company that was one of the first to jump into telemedicine. Since 2021, the DRA has offered telemedicine appointments to members for $12 a month. Restaurateurs, employees and their families can request an appointment with a medical or mental health provider and be seen within a day through a video or phone call — and even even a prescription called in to a pharmacy that day.
DRA President and CEO Carrie Leishman noted that while Teladoc was not a substitute for seeing a primary care doctor, it was a valuable tool in an industry that attracts young workers.
“What we know is that even small businesses like those that do offer health care plans don’t take advantage of it, because young people typically shrug off some things instead of going to see a doctor, ’” she said. “Our industry isn’t 9-to-5, there’s night shifts. When there is an issue, this is a solution that can meet people where they are, and in a quick time frame.”
The National Restaurant Association first tapped into the Teladoc program, leveraging its size to negotiate a favorable rate for members in state associations. Restaurant employees historically have fewer insurance options than other workers. Thirty-one percent of restaurants surveyed in Toast’s 2019 Restaurant Success Report offer medical insurance for employees, while 21% offer dental and 18% offer vision insurance.
“The DRA wanted a comprehensive source of solutions for restaurant staff and their operators, and in light of the [COVID-19] pandemic, that has never been more important,” Leishman said. “This helps get that support directly to those who need it – and it can be used between jobs as well.”
Through Delaware’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act, the DRA was granted funding to provide vouchers for up to 500 people to cover the entire expense of Teladoc for up to 12 months. That funding ends in 2024.
Generally, the utilization has been small since the DRA launched the Teladoc program, which Leishman said could reflect the lack of immediate need, as users can download an app on their smartphones and forget about it.
“We do love it because you can download it and have it right there when you need it,” Leishman said. “It does bring up a bigger picture: people weren’t used to online anything until the pandemic, and that transition to medical care and counseling was a hurdle for some people.”